The general rule for the Monday practices of Gilas Pilipinas was that if you had a game on Sunday, you’re allowed not to join the proceedings for that week. However, Japeth Aguilar did not make playing in the second game for PBA Superball Sunday as an excuse. Instead he saw the Monday practice as a chance to work on his conditioning.
“Ginagamit ko itong practice na ito para ma-kundisyon ako kasi late ako nag-start ng training ko with Ginebra so gusto kong ma-improve yung stamina ko for the all-Filipino,” Aguilar said after joining a huge group at the Meralco Gym as the old-timers were joined by some of the best young talent in the country.
Aguilar was fresh from helping Ginebra start the Philippine Cup at 2-0 after they defeated GlobalPort Batang Pier 104-97 in a come-from-behind win. In that game, Aguilar had 21 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and six blocks. Even though he only had less than 24 hours of rest after playing 37 minutes for the Kings, Aguilar was a ball of energy during the Gilas practice as he wowed the younger players with his feats of athleticism.
The high-flying forward dunked on every opportunity and some of the young guards even saw this as a chance to know what it feels like to throw an alley-pass to Aguilar.
Practicing with much younger players who could be a part of the national team come the 2023 FIBA World Cup made Aguilar reminisce about his own Gilas career as he was with them from the very start. Aguilar was also an important member of the 2013 squad that qualified for the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
“Hindi ko man lang na realize na 10 years na pala yung Gilas 2.0 by the time mag-host tayo ng FIBA World Cup sa 2023,” Aguilar said. “Nag-start doon (rise of the Gilas program in 2013). Nag-carry over yung basketball program ng Gilas to the next teams tapos biglang nagsulputan itong mga matatangkad na players who have a lot of potential. Iba na yung generation ngayon. Agile na rin yung mga big guys ng Pilipinas.”
It must have been an weird feeling for Aguilar to see players almost a decade younger than him standing just as tall. The lanky Kampampangan baller knew that he was going to be one of the figures who will help mold the future of Philippine basketball by training alongside the young players and he was very vocal about what he think would make them successful.
“Na-impress ako sa kanilang lahat. I was impressed with all of them pero syempre I’m leaning towards the lanky and tall guys,” Aguilar said. “Pag na-invite ka pa lang dito, isang milestone na yan sa kanilang career because that means one of the best players sila in the Philippines. Ang advice ko lang sa kanila is to grab the opportunity and savor it. Make the most out of it. Bigay niyo lahat, ‘yung walang regrets. ‘Pag nasa national team kayo, bigay niyo lahat kasi nire-represent niyo na yung bansa.”
Asked if he could still join the team in 2023 when he will be 36 years old, Aguilar did not close the door on the chance.
“Hindi natin masasabi e,” he answered. “So far, okay pa naman ang pakiramdam ko ngayon. As long as naalagaan lang yung katawan kaya pa siguro pero mahirap sabihin kasi malayo pa yun.”